When the Rochester Area Keyboard Clubfirst organized, a worker at Bach Music Co. was convinced that it wouldn't last — he thought piano teachers were too independent to work together.
That anecdote has been repeated lately with the teachers, performers and music lovers who belong to the Keyboard Club as the organization celebrates its 50th anniversary this Saturday at Our Savior's Lutheran Churchin Rochester.
The day begins at 8 a.m. with the Sons of Norway Piano Competition, with middle-school and high-school students playing works of Scandinavian composers. Immediately afterward will be the Hoffman Senior Awards, a contest for graduating seniors. The competitions are expected to be done by 11:30 a.m.
An honors recital, which includes contest winners and other students chosen by their teachers, is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. The competitions, recital and reception are free and open to the public.
"The Keyboard Club was conceived by teacher Marguerite Hoffman as a means to unify private piano teachers at a time when they were very competitive for business," said Karen Vinje, a longtime member who's one of the organizers of the anniversary celebration. "Over the years we have provided many growth opportunities for both teachers and students."
David Shaffer-Gottschalk, the Keyboard Club's secretary, agrees. He found camaraderie with the group when he returned to Rochester in 2013 after teaching at Virginia State University for more than 20 years.
"The private music teacher's profession is kind of a lonely thing," he said, adding that Keyboard Club fosters a solidarity with other teachers that helps him grow professionally. And the benefits he receives are passed down to his students.
"One of the reasons why I think it's important is that we have a diversity in styles of teaching, a diversity of the kind of music that's taught by members, and that makes it a worthwhile clearinghouse for teachers to come and share ideas."
The Keyboard Club offers a variety of music instruction that belies its name. Its members not only include piano teachers, but people who offer lessons in voice, violin, guitar, oboe, bassoon, saxophone and flute.
All music teachers, regardless of the instrument they teach, help their students learn the importance of a long-term commitment, Shaffer-Gottschalk said.
"One of things we offer is that reward has a delayed gratification," he said, "which personally I think is so needed in our culture. It's also needed in our young people to be able to realize that this investment of time that I'm putting in isn't going to reap its reward tomorrow. It's going to reap its reward if I stick with it over a long period of time."
Curtis Baum, a 2015 recipient of the Hoffman Award, echoes that belief.
"For me, the reward is spread out over a long time," Baum said. "It's not often working toward a definite goal, it's a constant reward over the little things. I can see the results of a long string of days of practice."
Now a sophomore at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Baum said his music training has taught him discipline, but the value goes beyond that.
"As a music major, and also as a lifelong musician, there is a constant need to practice, but my time at the piano also keeps me sane as I navigate daily life," Baum said. "Training in music forces me to know myself and what I am capable of, whether or not to spend another hour practicing until the buildings close, or acknowledge that my mind needs to rest. Making music with others is also a very relational art. My experiences in choirs, orchestra, and accompanying vocalists or instrumentalists have taught me to listen, follow, and communicate with others in ways that carry over into broader life."
Shaffer-Gottschalk said music teachers make a greater contribution to culture than any sociologist could measure. While it's evident when we listen to a musician perform, he thinks about the influence a teacher had on someone who entered another field.
"I would love to see a survey of the highest-functioning doctors at Mayo and see how many of them are amateur musicians or were highly proficient musicians in their day, even if they're not doing it anymore," he said. "I think that would be a very interesting statistic. These are the people who are making scientific contributions. I wonder with all of their degrees and everything, have they stopped to credit their music teacher?"
They can on Saturday.